Advent ends in only a few hours with the arrival of the Christ Child. I must thank those who helped me begin this season of preparation four weeks ago. Gene Giuliano, our Catholic Biblical School instructor for Year 2, gave the Advent mission at St. Mary of the Pines church, at the invitation of DRE Kim Long. I’m privileged to call Kim a dear friend since our small group sessions throughout Year 1.
Gene’s three-night mission really got into my head and heart, as I’m sure it did with others attending. He spoke of establishing an intimate relationship to God, being open to change and new beginnings. God comes to meet us, and this demands a change in us. It takes courage to overcome our fear of what is new. With the Infancy Narratives as the basic text, Gene presented:
- Mary as an example of surrender and trust. She accepted an unknown future directed to God.
- The shepherds as our model for mission—that is, making God’s presence known. They became the first apostles, the first evangelists.
- Joseph as the ideal for mercy and forgiveness. He did not expose Mary to the law, but accepted her as his wife and Jesus as his child, even fleeing to Egypt to protect them.
The magi as an example of humility and service, following Jesus. That we should humbly regard others as more important than ourselves.
That was night 1. Night 2 focused on the presence of God. Responding to God who dwells within us. He is not distant but always with us and acting on our behalf. How do we open ourselves to that reality? Through the Scriptures, the Eucharist and sacraments, service to others—especially the marginalized, the ill, the elderly, or our enemies.
Night 3 focused on saying Yes to God, opening the door, keeping our lamps lit. Gene outlined four ways to draw closer to God, No. 1 being study of the Scriptures! The others involved worship (engage in prayer and actively participate in liturgy); ministry (be His presence in our everyday world); and fellowship (become a part of each others’ lives, at home, at work and at worship). We are called to be the instrument of salvation for someone else.
May we embrace tonight and always the true meaning of Emmanuel: God is with us. May we run forth to greet Him.